"I sat on the bench."

 

COLUMNS

The Danville News

Robert John Andrews

October 1, 2020

“October”

Word Count:  750

 

October is the kindest month, breeding a palette of colors from the trees.  Cool mornings so refreshing.  Cool nights for open window sleeping.  Perhaps beneath warming comforter or quilt.  Trying to catch Maple Tree seed pods helicoptering to ground and their intent on propagation.  Planting bulbs in expectation for sunshine bloom following hibernation in cold soil.  The Itea Sweetspire burning purple-red unto first frost.  Grilled hot dogs replaced by stews and meat pies.  Cornfields carved into dry mazes.  Your lawn grows lazy and slow.  It no longer requires the frantic labor of fecund, incessant spring and summer.  Even October weeds seem listless.  Look for abundance sprawling out in fat pumpkin patches.  Look for nature’s gift above in apple trees.  How do you judge apples?  Never by those fallen to the ground but by the ones hanging above, tart and crisp. 

 

Best of all, October ushers in the peak time of fall sports (virus exempt).  Professional sports, excepting the World Series, holds for me no attraction.  College sports (forgive me, Penn Staters) I give passing attention.  Youth sports, however, are what October is all about -- the ripe time of a team’s season.  The thrill of Marching Bands and weekly games, the heartbeat of a town drumming. 

 

October is my favorite time of year, breeding fond memories of young days on the field.  Fond memories of best of buddies – Kenny, Jeff, Chip, Jay, Mitch, and my paisan Oliverie – along with the best of coaches:  Coach Formichella.  We had a good senior year season too.  Fourteen wins, one loss, two ties.  Formichella, the kind of coach you wanted to play for.  High expectations, fine values, tough teaching, good training, great assessment of where players best fit.  I came from Junior High playing Center Half but Coach quickly realized my talents weren’t as the control, anchor player.  He shifted me to Left-halfback Winger where I could dash and assist.  Coach also had a sense of humor.  My senior year, due to me busy with the school board addressing tense conflicts caused by racial strife, police patrolling our hallways, I lost my starter position.  I couldn’t make every practice.  I sat on the bench.  At least, I was among the first subs sent in.  One match, wiseacre me brought a cushion to sit on.  Coach made me play the entire game non-stop.  Halfbacks had the fun of running the full field, back and forth, the entire game.  Forwards and Defenders watched us pant. 

 

How fortunate it has been since to help assist fine coaches, those who represented what coaching ought to be, men similar to Coach Formichella.  I remember when we didn’t play as well as he knew we could, Coach blamed himself.  How embarrassing it has been to occasionally witness lousy coaches:  screamers, bullies, fellows who throw tantrums while berating the young players, cheaters, coaches for whom winning is the only thing that matters and they will do anything to make sure they win.  For these coaches, it’s more about them than about their players.   Men without shame.

 

How fortunate it has been to revel in October afternoons alongside coaches who appreciated that the real game was helping young athletes learn to win like sportsmen, or learn to lose, to sit on the bench, to recognize others might be better than you, inspiring you to work hard.  The summer before I earned my starting position I ran miles with lead weights wrapped to my ankles.  The best of sports is helping young athletes learn discipline, self-control, teamwork, shaking hands with your opponents, even discovering how annoying and vicious some fans, especially parents, can be.

 

Last, good coaches help you learn that seasons end.  October yields to November and playoffs if you’ve earned the right to keep playing.  October’s rains turn chilly.  The turf becomes chewed up, worn out.  When you slide tackle, the ground scrapes like concrete.  Raspberries.  The pretty fields of September turn scuffed and used.  You resign yourself to accepting the time comes to hang up your soccer boots, put away your shoulder pads and helmet, store your hockey stick, and move on. 

 

That’s the final kindness of October.  It prepares you for November, then December.  No wonder October ends with Halloween.  Halloween began as a New Year’s Festival for my Gaelic ancestors, marking twilight time, when the harvesting was spent and the realm of darkness ruled, a time when the barrier between spirit world and reality became porous, when the passions of hot summer turn mellow for their final bounty. 

COLUMN ARCHIVE

"They're at their wits end."

Thursday, September 24, 2020 

"Accountability"

"I sat on the bench."

Thursday, October 1, 2020 

"October"

"Just don't ask me to teach calculus."

Thursday, September 17, 2020 

"Virtual Learning"

"Odds are, we won't"

Thursday, September 10, 2020 

"Dear Children"

"Mom told them what they could do."

Thursday, September 3, 2020 

"Good Work"

"A cheap, cheating dodge."

Thursday, August 27 2020 

"The Weight of Words"

""Who' is our responsibility."

Thursday, August 20 2020 

"Votes Count"

"They push me into better."

Thursday, August 13 2020 

"42 Years"

"Email blurbs are lousy for solving problems."

Thursday, August 6 2020 

"Reasonable Minds"

"Time's flying by."

Thursday, July 30 2020 

"Dear Mayfly"

"Good checklist."

Thursday, July 23 2020 

"Why Government?"

"Shadow or substance."

Thursday, July 16, 2020 

"Weightier Matters"

"I'm  not proud."

Thursday, July 9, 2020 

"An Excess of Dumb"

"His words still ring true."

Thursday, July 2, 2020 

"Past is Present"

"Restore what?"

Thursday, June 25, 2020 

"Dear Evangelicals"

"Dad did lead me around with a leash"

Thursday, June 18, 2020 

"Father's Day"

"Last, why red, white, and blue?"

Thursday, June 11, 2020 

"Flag Day"

"It's a platitude, but nonetheless true."

Thursday, June 4, 2020 

"Graduation Platitudes"

"No touch rule."

Thursday, May 28, 2020 

"We Aren't Closed"

"The heck with Hamlet."

Thursday, May 21, 2020 

"Lists"

"Worry, friends, of the 'collective rage'..."

Thursday, May 14, 2020 

"My Country"

"We claim the advantage of the broken heart."

Thursday, May 7, 2020 

"A Day of Mourning"

"The game isn't over yet."

Thursday, April 30, 2020 

"Counting Losses"

"Euclid teaches us still."

Thursday, April 23, 2020 

"Thank You Libraries"

"God forgive us if all we do is return to the way it was."

Thursday, April 16, 2020 

"A Moveable Feast"

"I was on a mission from God."

Thursday, April 9, 2020 

"Virus Road"

"Every day is judgment day."

Thursday, April 2, 2020 

"Mom Was Right"

"Hows your Roundelay these days?"

Thursday, March 26, 2020 

"It Takes Effort"

"What did Grandma counsel?"

Thursday, March 19, 2020 

"It Feels Different"

"Stabilize a broken America first, then progress."

Thursday, March 12, 2020 

"Second Choice"

"Poor, poor, pitiful me."

Thursday, February 6, 2020 

"Ministerium"

"Are there any guardrails left?"

Thursday, February 13, 2020 

"Guardrails"

"Sorry, it's inside us."

Thursday, February 20, 2020 

"Virus"

"Bad, Romans, bad!"

Thursday, February 27, 2020 

"Leap Day"

"We are our histories..."

Thursday, March 5, 2020 

"Generations"

"We provide for appeals."

Thursday, January 30, 2020 

"Dissolutions"

"Everyday heroes."

Thursday, January 23, 2020 

"Heroes"

"Money matters more."

Thursday, January 16, 2020 

"Nice Try, Marc Theissen"

"We want purveyors of the possible."

Thursday, January 9, 2020 

"The Political Calling"

"It never happened."

Thursday, December 26, 2019 

"The Vanishing"

"Designed for a purpose"

Thursday, January 2, 2020

"Why made?"

"Friendship is a bond of grace."

Thursday, December 19, 2019 

"King Jesus"

"The gaggle moved to the side."

Thursday, December 12, 2019 

"Walmart Zen"

"Provocateurs become healers."

Thursday, December 5, 2019 2019

"Political Signs"

"Cynics, hush!."

Thursday, 28 November 2019

"Thanksgiving Memories"

"If it's social media news, it's rot."

Thursday, 21 November 2019

"Fred Rogers"

"The smell of boy."

Thursday, 14 November 2019

"Young Blood"

"Good thing we have the purity of the Republicans."

Thursday, 7 November 2019

"A Friendly Feud"

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